LONDON — The NFL placed Giants kicker Josh Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list Friday in light of documents released this week in which he admitted to physical and emotional abuse of his wife.
Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy & league affairs, wrote a letter to Brown informing him of the designation, which only can be made by commissioner Roger Goodell under the auspices of the league’s personal conduct policy. Birch wrote that the roster move would be for “a limited and temporary basis to permit the league fully to review the materials and determine whether further action is necessary.” He noted that the designation does not mean the league has found that Brown has violated the personal conduct policy.
Brown will continue to collect his full salary while on the exempt list, but he does not count against the team’s 53-man roster. Brown cannot attend practices or games while on the list, but can be present at the Giants’ facility for meetings and medical treatment “with club permission.”
Brown has three days to appeal the commissioner’s decision.
“The League office wanted unilateral control of this process and accordingly, their system lacks transparency,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement. The union did not say whether Brown would appeal the designation.
Brown was arrested on charges that he assaulted his wife, Molly Brown, in May 2015. Those charges were dropped soon after the arrest, but the investigation continued. On Wednesday evening the King County (Washington) sheriff’s office released documents that included a journal in which Brown outlined the various ways he abused his wife and a letter he wrote to friends admitting his abuse.
The Giants said in a statement on Thursday that Brown would not join the team on the trip to London for Sunday’s game against the Rams and that they would re-evaluate the findings and Brown’s future with the team when they returned to New Jersey. A source said that continues to be the case.
“We’re not going to turn our back on Josh,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said on Friday. “He’s a teammate and a guy who we’re hoping makes strides.”
The NFL said on Thursday it is re-opening its investigation into Brown, which first focused on the incident in May 2015 and resulted in a one-game suspension that was served in Week 1 of this season.
Goodell told the BBC on Friday that the NFL wants to “get the facts and when we get the facts, we’re going to aggressively pursue that, and we’ll apply our policy.”
Birch’s letter states that the newly released documents “appear to contain information regarding other incidents of abuse separate from the May 22, 2015 incident for which you were disciplined under the Personal Conduct Policy. As a result, further investigation by the league into those separate incidents is needed.”
Birch’s letter also noted that the NFL had “made multiple requests of the Sheriff’s Office for any and all pertinent information developed through its investigation. Because the Sheriff’s Office was treating its investigation as an open matter, however, the NFL’s requests were rejected and the materials first became known and available to us at the same time they were released publicly.”
That echoed the NFL’s Thursday statement in which it said the new information this week was previously unknown to its investigators and that King County law enforcement was uncooperative during the process.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart, on a radio interview in Seattle on Thursday night, said the NFL’s investigator did not identify himself as such when requesting information. Urquhart said even if the investigator said he was from the NFL, his office would not have released the files that became public this week, which included Brown’s journal entries as part of his therapy, which Molly Brown gave to authorities. But Urquhart said he would have at least warned the NFL that the case was “blossoming.”
“We’re not gonna give them specifics,” he said, “but we certainly would have cautioned the NFL to be careful about what they were going to do.”
The league and the team have not completely severed ties with Brown as some have called for. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, in a letter to the Giants, questioned their “bizarrely light punishment” and wrote: “It is unacceptable to continue to defend Brown.”
Some teammates are wavering in their backing of the kicker. Quarterback Eli Manning maintained that he can “support your teammates but also support the decision of the organization.” Others, however, are showing less in the direction of Brown.
“What was said and what was done is not what we represent as Giants,” defensive captain and linebacker Jonathan Casillas who, like many players, is learning the details of allegations and documents that paint Brown as a serial abuser through media reports, said on Friday. “Some of us know about it, some of us don’t. So it’s just fresh to us … It is a tough situation and from what I have read on it, it’s not too good for anyone that is involved in it.”
Justin Pugh, a starting guard who supported Brown in the summer, seemed to rescind that support on Twitter on Friday.
“I was misinformed and unknowingly speaking with limited information at the time I commented earlier this year,” he posted. “I had no personal knowledge of his behavior at home and obviously do not condone domestic violence of any kind.”
The Giants will fill Brown’s roster and position vacancy with veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who is expected to play on Sunday.
McAdoo was asked to clarify his policy on players accused of actions such as those of Brown. In an offseason interview he said he had zero tolerance for domestic violence, but in the preseason when Brown’s arrest came to light, McAdoo said he handled it on a case-by-case basis.
“I do not support domestic violence if that’s what you’re asking,” he said on Friday. “I don’t condone it.”
The Giants coach did not say much about the new information.
“I want to make sure I have all the information available before I speak,” he said. “I’m waiting for as much information as I can so I can make the best possible decisions for this team and this organization.”
McAdoo was asked about the other alleged incidents of violence by Brown, including a situation at the Pro Bowl in January in which the league had to intervene on behalf of Molly Brown and that Giants co-owner John Mara said on Thursday that the team was aware of before re-signing Brown in the offseason.
McAdoo said only: “Everything is concerning.”